Don Felmlee was under the impression that attending the Noontime Kiwanis meeting on Jan. 31 was to support another member who was winning the Red Wing Neighbor of the Year award.
Little did he know, the award was to be given to him, with family expected to be in attendance as a surprise.
The only problem? Felmlee didn't make it.
The Red Wing man was experiencing car troubles in Shakopee. Felmlee said in a phone interview with the Eagle that he didn't even get his car started until 4 p.m., with AAA services busy all morning due to temperatures in the neighborhood of 30 below zero.
While Felmlee wasn't in attendance, he didn't get to miss out on the well wishes and many thanks given to him by fellow Kiwanians and his family.
Felmlee's daughter had him on speaker phone as numerous people praised the 20-year member for his constant and unrelenting service to the Red Wing community. The three Kiwanis Clubs-Noontime, Dawnbreakers and Golden K-present the annual award to a citizen; this year the recipient happened to be a member.
Many said they are "proud" that Felmlee was honored with the award, calling him a "role model" in the community.
Felmlee was a barber in Red Wing where he raised his five children. Later, Felmlee was an assistant chief for the Red Wing Fire Department. Upon retirement, Felmlee worked as a director for the Disaster Recovery Center, helping coordinate disaster responses for the city.
Outside of Kiwanis, Felmlee has volunteered at St. Joe's, the Salvation Army, the food shelf, Faith in Action and the Knights of Columbus. He's also driven school bus.
Felmlee said that he "couldn't believe it" when he found out he was the 2018 recipient and was disappointed he wasn't present.
Three of Felmlee's children accepted of the award on his behalf and will give it to him promptly.
A major part of Felmlee's work for Kiwanis was helping raise money for the Eliminate Project, which brings together Kiwanis International and UNICEF to help eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in Third World countries. The goal was to raise $110 million around the world was accomplished.
Felmlee said Red Wing Kiwanians raised $38,000 for the project.
When he reflects on the award, Felmlee said this one means a lot to him because it represents his love of Red Wing. As a resident for 65 years, Felmlee said he loves to visit other Kiwanis organizations in the region and hear from other members about how beautiful they think Red Wing. Felmlee said he feels like he is an ambassador for Red Wing and is honored to talk about how wonderful the city is to others.